TV on Strike: The Rise of Digital Content

One of the first catalysts for the Writers Guild strike was the rise of digital content. Littleton specifically discusses the increase in webisodes, or other additional content specifically derived from consisting television intellectual properties. The problem arose with the place of new media writers in the Hollywood-based traditional landscape. The year from 2006-2007 showed a drastic change in the way our society consumes visual media. Most early digital content derived from already established content manifesting in webisodes or Alternate Reality Games (ARG’s). Widely viewed television programs started employing internet strategies to keep their audiences engaged in the week between the show’s airings. Soon after, content creators started to see the potential for independent creators to go around traditional systems and publish their content directly to the Web. While original content geared for the internet has been around since the late 90’s when broadband speeds were fast enough to stream video, they weren’t very popular until the rise in popularity of sites for distributing video content such as Vimeo and Youtube.

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The relationship between online content producers and traditional distribution networks has been convoluted and contentious since the early days of the internet. While these independent systems were derived to abstain from traditional media delivery systems, they generally required large amounts of capital to produce. The need for financing drove these content creators to seek film and television bigwigs to finance their efforts. The first began instance of this was Showtime in 1999 buying the distribution rights for the animated web series WhirlgirlShowtime began redistributing Whirlgirl on its website and broadcasting on its premium channel. The show became the first piece of content to be broadcast online and live TV simultaneously. This unprecedented connection between online and television distribution set into motion a burgeoning relationship between traditional and new media.

Over the next 15 years, the relationship between new and traditional media systems have become integrated, much like the series of acquisitions and mergers that shaped the Film and TV landscape in the years preceding 1996. In 2014, one of the largest new media acquisitions took place when Disney made a bid to buy Maker studios for 500 million dollars, with a possibility of the deal rising to over a billion dollars depending on profit margins. Maker Studios is a Youtube-based production company that runs several different Youtube channels. Disney made this deal to attempt to appeal to younger, more tech-savvy audiences that it’s current platform was somehow not reaching.

Traditional media outlets suffered from the advent of the internet, and were forced to resort to the use and abuse of new media to secure profit margins in the digital age. The Writers Strike of 2007 was started because of this need for profit by the studios, ignoring the financial needs of television writers during the recession. While the relationship between new and old media has been contentious, the Guild system exists to secure that artisans of various fields in the entertainment industry can survive. The increased buying of digital properties by bigger film studios is indicative that the relationship between these industries is moving towards a productive and bright future.

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